EXCLUSIVE: Visceral Action- A Conversation with CRANK, GAMER & PANAMA Director Mark Neveldine!

By: John M Jerva

In the realm of action movie cinema, there are a few filmmakers that I have wanted to speak to ever since I started my website. One of these influential cinema mainstays was Mark Neveldine who co-directed with Brian Talylor the visceral action flicks Crank and Crank 2: High Voltage with Jason Statham as well as Gamer with Gerard Butler. Neveldine has a distinct signature when it comes to making high-octane films and his latest is no exception.

Neveldine is back with the powder keg political action-thriller Panama which sees him directing two of action’s most applicable actors in Cole Hauser and the one and only Mel Gibson. Ripped from the 80’s headlines when America was getting involved in the Panama situation, Hauser stars as a former Marine who must brave the volatile elements of an unstable government to help broker an arms deal that will be influential in what is coming.

In this exclusive interview, Neveldine talks about the new movie, working with Hauser and Gibson as well as shooting the action. We also dive into Crank and Gamer and get a behind the scenes look of Mark himself. Enjoy!

  1. Hi Mark. First of all, thank you for answering my questions. I’m a real fan and it’s an honor to chat. First of all, talk about the path that led you into filmmaking. Was it a career you always wanted to do?

I knew when I was a kid that I wanted to work in film, but I didn’t know what that meant.  I did plays in high school & college, and then continued writing, directing and acting in plays in NYC. I quickly realized that getting into film was much different and bought a Canon XL1 and because I had no clue what I was doing people started to take notice because I directed things in an unconventional way.

2) You have a unique visual style to the films you make. Tell us how it came about and how you approach each film you do. 

 I just look at the material and start making a plan.  Because I started the business 75K in debt I had to get creative and started filming on my rollerblades, trying to capture characters in an organic way. Then all of my filmmaking followed this path.

3) If it’s ok, I’d love to talk about some previous movies too as they are favorites of mine and the stars that are in them: The Crank movies with Jason Statham are truly fun and over the top and they set a different trend for action films going forward. Tell us how they came about. 

 Brian and I wanted to find a character that would lend itself to our filmmaking style. We were having a couple (cases) mugs of beer and started laughing about a guy who would die if he stopped moving. Movies were getting ridiculous, and we wanted to jump off of that.

4) Gamer is my number one favorite Gerard Butler film. It’s so original and different in its execution. How did that concept happen and talk about Butler as a leading man?

 We were talking about the singularity before it was a buzz word. Brian was sort of a gamer and I hated it, only because I didn’t understand technology.  Brian could build a desktop computer in under an hour.  Ironically, I’m now a cryptocurrency nut, but I still don’t game.  It was our warning to humans about where society was going, packaged inside of this wild dystopian world. But really this is much a longer discussion. Thanks for liking this movie. Gerry did a great job.

5) I hope I get to talk to you about it a little more in the future. OK, your new film is Panama, and it comes from real events. How did you get involved with this project? I believe at one time it had a different Director and Frank Grillo and Morgan Freeman were attached to it. How was that evolution?

  Morgan & Frank were attached, then covid hit.  I thought it was dead.  After I moved to Nashville, I got a call from Cole saying that we should make the film in December of 2020.  It was exciting and we decided to accept the challenge of filming this movie in 14 days at the height of covid.

6)  You got to have not one, but two great leading men headline the film in Cole Hauser and the one and only Mel Gibson. Both favorites of mine. Talk about each star and what they brought to the table. 

 Early in my career I would tell people that Mel & Sly were the reasons I got into to the business, so needless to say working with Mel was bucket list shit.  He was a total pro.  Working with Cole was incredible on so many levels. He’s a real actor’s actor and he’s just coming into his stardom. He called me and we hit it off immediately.  We both wanted to make a fun 80’s style movie and he’s coming off this major hit with Yellowstone. Additionally, my wife, Alison, and Cole worked on White Oleander together, so when Cole called it was like listening to two old friends catching up. The whole experience with Cole & Mel was surreal.  I wish it was a 6-month shoot!

7)  Your movies have a real visceral feel to the action sequences. How do you approach set pieces in your films and what sources influence you in doing the physical and high-octane stuff? 

 I always want the camera directly in the action.  I don’t love CGI.  I work with the best stunt coordinators and stunt men and women to choreograph scenes that just feel real no matter how heightened the tone might be. On this short shoot I would have been lost without Frank Blake, my stunt coordinator.  Frank was the only crew member I was allowed to bring because of covid.  Longer story here. That said, everyone should film in Puerto Rico because their crews are incredible, and they studied my past films so they were primed and ready to get it done. I wish we could have spent a longer time with them.

8)  Panama is a political thriller also punctuated with action. Talk about how the action compliments the heavy drama on display and specifically how it was tailor made for Cole. 

It’s easy for us to believe that Cole can live in this world because he’s a natural.  He’s this 6’2 athlete who can shoot, ride motorcycles, fight like a prize-winning pugilist, and he’s going to win many awards for his acting in the coming years.  Cole makes filming easy.

9)  There is a picture of you on the IMDb where you are running behind Jason Statham with a handheld. I love that picture and could you talk about it happening and give us a behind the scenes of it. 

I think you’re talking about a shot of me on rollerblades behind Jason.  Most of Crank 1 & 2 I directed on rollerblades to give them a really kinetic feel.  You also need rollerblades to keep up with Statham. He’s a lightning bolt.

10)  At this stage in your career, what type of projects still interest you from a filmmaking standpoint. Is there a certain type of movie you would still like to make? 

I feel like I’m just beginning.  I finally understand what the hell I’m doing. I mean this. I see things differently.  Now that my 3 kids are potty trained, I’m excited to really dive back in and commit to making classics, mostly cult classics. I want to look at everything again and I’m back to writing and personifying madness.

11)  In terms of the audience, what do you want them to take away from when they watch Panama. 

I want them to remember a time when it was OK to drink a beer, kick ass and take names.  Turn off your damn phones and have some fun.

12)  Lastly, are there any future projects we can hear about? 

NET ZERO, THE OLYMPIANS, and the Crank Cinematic Universe will be invading your lives again next year.

Thank you so much again for answering my questions. This was a fun interview to do with you. Best of luck in the future and I’m waiting to hear more on the Crank Cinematic Universe!

Thanks!

Panama Hits Select Cinemas, Digital Platforms and VOD this Friday from Saban Films!

Mel Gibson and Cole Hauser star in the edge-of-your-seat action thriller set during the political upheaval of 1989 Panama. When the U.S. is on the brink of invading Panama, a former marine (Hauser) is hired by a CIA operative (Gibson) for a top-secret arms trade mission. Alone and among the most dangerous arms dealers, Becker (Hauser) learns the true nature of political power.

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